Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities

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Negligent or Inadequate Hiring, Supervision, Retention & Training

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Staff Use of Force Against Prisoners--Part II: Governmental and Supervisory Liability, 2008 (10) AELE Mo. L.J. 301.

       The wife of a detainee could not prevail in her lawsuit against a county arising out of the death of her husband from a punch in the face while in a holding room at the county jail, because her only evidence of an alleged custom of excessive force against inmates consisted of her husband’s death, the punching officer’s employee history, and a Department of Justice report regarding conditions in the jail. She failed to demonstrate a persistent, widespread practice of officials concerning such assaults by prisoners that was so common and well-settled as to constitute a custom that fairly represented municipal policy. She also failed to produce competent summary judgment evidence of the county's failure to train regarding responses to assaults by inmates and medical aid following a response incident. Hicks-Fields v. Pool, #16-20003, 2017 U.S. App. Lexis 11339 (5th Cir.).

     The widow of a detainee at a county jail claimed that officers used excessive force while extracting him from his cell, which resulted in his asphyxiation and death, and that some defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs during the incident. The appeals court, overturning summary judgment for the defendants, found that there were genuine issues of material fact from which a jury could conclude that excessive force was used. Further proceedings were needed to consider whether individual defendants should face trial on either direct liability for use of force or on a bystander liability theory. The appeals court upheld summary judgment for the individual defendants on the claim concerning deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and for the municipality on an inadequate training claim. Kitchen v. Dallas County Texas, #13-10545 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 13699 (5th Cir.).
     A pretrial detainee in a county facility was housed in a small unit with an upper level open to the lower level. Both minimum and medium security detainees were housed there. Four or five fights were reported there every day, with 20-30 estimated to occur but remain unreported. The detainee had a reputation as a bully, and was known for stealing food. One day, he was confronted by approximately 12 angry prisoners outside of his upper level cell. An officer was with the crowd, and a verbal dispute ensued. The inmates did not disperse, and as the detainee began to walk to the lower level, an inmate struck him. The officer restrained that inmate, but another inmate then struck him. The detainee suffered a concussion and the loss of sight in one eye. Evidence in his lawsuit included statements from some inmates that officers could and should have stopped the argument. Overturning summary judgment for the defendant county, a federal appeals court found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether there had been deliberate indifference concerning the need for pre-service training of officers in conflict de-escalation and intervention, and whether the lack of such training helped cause the plaintiff detainee's injuries. Thomas v. Cumberland Cnty., 12-3959, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 6668 (3rd Cir.).
     A teenage pretrial detainee was sexually assaulted by an older heavier registered sex offender while in a county jail. The appeals court held that the plaintiff had to show that the defendant sheriff and jail administrator personally knew of the constitutional risk posed by their alleged inadequate training or supervision and proximately caused his injuries by failing to take required remedial action. Findings of fact by the trial court so far showed that the jail administrator was not presently entitled to qualified immunity as it was alleged that he failed to train a jailer concerning the jail's policy of locking all cell doors overnight. The sheriff, however, was granted qualified immunity, as there was nothing presented but conjecture to refute his testimony that he did not know about a substantial risk arising from the administrator's failure to train the jailer. Walton v. Dawson, #12-4000, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 9304 (8th Cir.).
     A pretrial detainee claimed that he was attacked by other inmates after a several-minute long verbal fight in the presence of corrections officers. His lawsuit asserted federal civil rights claims against the county and policymakers for failure to properly train the officers. A federal appeals court found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to the need for pre-service training of officers in conflict de-escalation and the issue of whether the lack of such training helped cause the plaintiff's injuries. A reasonable jury could, based on the evidence, find in favor of the plaintiff who presented evidence that similar fights regularly occurred in the prison, and that the failure to provide the training at issue did not align with prevailing standards and was a careless and dangerous practice. Thomas v. Cumberland County, #12-3959, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 6668 (3rd Cir.).
     A man pled guilty to charges of false imprisonment and was placed on probation and released from custody. His probation officer required him to register as a sex offender and be placed in a sex offender probation unit. This was based on the probation officer's mistaken belief that the man's victim had been a minor. He sued, and got his name removed from the sex offender registry and himself from the sex offender probation unit. The plaintiff stated a valid claim against the probation officer for violation of his civil rights. The defamatory harm of being wrongly placed on sex offender status without procedural due process satisfied a "stigma plus" requirement for civil liability for such actions. The probation officer was not entitled to qualified immunity on the procedural due process claim, but substantive due process and equal protection claims were properly rejected. Claims for supervisory liability against the Secretary of the state Department of Corrections were rejected on the basis of qualified immunity, since there was no showing that he was personally involved in the action or that the probation officer acted on the basis of any policy he was responsible for. Brown v. Montoya, #10-2269, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 22533 (10th Cir.).
     An Ohio prisoner claimed that the state correctional authorities were negligent in training and supervising a corrections officer who allegedly denied him a smoke break in retaliation for having previously filed complaints against the officer. The court, construing the prisoner's harassment complaint as seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, ruled that any distress suffered from the denial of a smoke break was not extreme and outrageous as required for such an award of damages. Further, to the extent that the prisoner claimed that the officer issued him a conduct report for violation of institutional rules improperly, the officer's decision was granted a high degree of discretion, so that the defendant Department was entitled to discretionary immunity. The evidence showed that the officer was not incompetent so that no claims could be asserted for negligent hiring, training, or supervision. Duff v. Ohio Dept, of Rehabilitation and Correction, #2009-02260, 2010 Ohio Misc. Lexis 22 (Ct. of Claims).
     A county sheriff hired a deputy, who was a allegedly provided with little or no training. The deputy was first assigned duties as a jailer, and later as a "road deputy." During his last week on the job, after resigning to pursue a position with the state Department of Corrections, he encountered a female employee at a convenience store who asked his advice on some legal problems. She declined his offer to go on a date with him. Learning that she had several outstanding arrest warrants, and owed approximately $800 in fees and fines, he drove to the store on his last day on the job, arrested her, and transported her to the jail, telling her that he would not have done so if she had agreed to the date. At the jail, the deputy bet a jailer that he could get the arrestee to reveal her breasts. He then told the arrestee that he could get her fines reduced if she would show him her breasts, and she eventually complied. He then allegedly grabbed her exposed breast. She sued the deputy and the sheriff, claiming that the sheriff failed to properly train the deputy. The deputy was also arrested and pled guilty to second degree sexual assault. The deputy had received a policy manual, but had not been required to read it, and, in fact, did not read it. He was scheduled to attend a training academy, but had not yet attended it at the time of the incident. The trial court found the deputy liable, as well as the sheriff in his official capacity, while granting the sheriff qualified immunity in his individual capacity. A federal appeals court overturned the inadequate training liability, noting that there was no duty specified in state statutes for sheriffs to train subordinates not to sexually assault detainees, and that there had been no past pattern of such conduct by the sheriff's deputies that would have put him on notice about the need for such training. Additionally, since a reasonable officer would know that intentionally sexually assaulting a detainee was illegal, and the deputy admitted that he knew "that such conduct was impermissible," the plaintiff failed to show that the lack of training caused the assault. Parrish v. Ball, #08-3517, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 2748 (8th Cir.).
     Prisoner stabbed by other inmates failed to show any deliberate indifference by the warden or two associate wardens. These officials could not be held liable simply on the basis of responsibility for the alleged actions of their subordinates. Following a trial against a deputy warden and several officers, the court granted judgment as a matter of law for the deputy warden, and the jury returned a verdict for the remaining defendants. The appeals court found that the evidence supported the jury's finding that there was no showing of deliberate indifference. Brown v. Kelly, No. 07-60329, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 20564 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
     Jail officials were entitled to summary judgment on prisoner's claims based on their alleged failure to suspend a correctional officer after receiving reports about an incident. Given what was known about the incident at the time, the decision to simply initiate an investigation without taking immediate action against the officer did not amount to deliberate indifference. Woods v. York County, No. 06-CV-171, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 13044 (D. Maine).
     The possibility that different procedures for addressing emergency medical procedures at a county jail might have resulted in a better response to the plaintiff prisoner's emergency did not suffice to show that the county sheriff provided inadequate training for jail personnel. Additionally, the procedures he did establish relied primarily on medical expertise that a contractual medical service company provided. Williams v. Limestone, No. 06-10957, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 24738 (11th Cir.). [N/R]
     Director of Colorado prisons, in authorizing use of special operations team to remove a prisoner from his cell to search for a loaded gun, was not liable for the officers' alleged excessive use of force, causing injuries to his jaw and testicles. No evidence showed that he either authorized or knew of any excessive force, or had any duty to personally supervise the team. Serna v. Colorado Dep't of Corr., No. 04-1241, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 18687 (10th Cir.). [2006 JB Sep]
     Deputies who placed an intoxicated detainee who had made suicidal threats in a cell under video surveillance were not liable for his subsequent successful suicide despite failure to remove the shoelaces he used to hang himself. Short v. Smoot, No. 05-1284, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 2564 (4th Cir.). County sheriff was not entitled to summary judgment on claims that he was individually liable for a jail detainee's suicide on the basis of failure to train personnel on the risk of detainee suicide. Gaston v. Ploeger, No. 04-2368, 399 F. Supp. 2d 1211 (D. Kan. 2005). [2006 JB Mar]
     Nebraska Supreme Court holds that state correctional agencies were entitled to sovereign immunity in lawsuit by female inmate claiming that a correctional employee sexually assaulted her, whether her claims were based either on the mere fact that he was an employee or on the defendants' alleged own negligence in hiring and supervising him. Johnson v. State of Nebraska, No. S-03-1362, 700 N.W.2d 620 (Neb. 2005). [2006 JB Feb]
     Federal trial court properly granted judgment as a matter of law on federal civil rights claims and negligent training and supervision claims against Florida sheriff arising out of detainee's suicide after his requests to see a psychiatrist failed to be granted. Appeals court finds, however, that the trial court erred in also granting judgment for the sheriff on a state law vicarious liability negligence claim. Trial court acted within its discretion in excluding evidence of other suicides at detention facility, and testimony of plaintiff's suicide expert witness. Cook v. Sheriff of Monroe County, No. 03-14784, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 4014 (11th Cir. 2005). [2005 JB May]
     Prisoner's failure to claim personal involvement of the sheriff in connection with his slip and fall on wet floor outside shower area in county correctional facility barred a federal civil rights claim against him. Sheriff was not involved in the incident itself and the prisoner failed to allege any conduct in the sheriff's supervisory role which would have imposed liability. Davis v. Reilly, No. 03-CV-3954, 324 F. Supp. 2d 361 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). [N/R]
     Female prisoners who claimed that they were sexually assaulted by a jailer stated a viable claim against the city for alleged failure to adequately train or supervise its jailers. "We are unwilling to say, at this point, that it is not obvious that male jailers who receive no training and who are left virtually unsupervised might abuse female detainees." Drake v. City of Haltom, 106 Fed. Appx. 897 (5th Cir. 2004). [N/R]
     Female former inmates of federal community confinement center operated by a private company failed to show that company was negligent in failing to uphold a one-year security experience requirement when transferring an employee to a "resident advocate" position, since they failed to demonstrate that there was any connection between the employee's lack of security experience and his alleged sexual abuse of inmates. Company could not be held vicariously liable for the alleged abuse simply on the basis of the employer-employee relationship. There was, however, a triable issue of whether the company was negligent in retaining the employee after it received a report of his alleged sexual harassment of one female prisoner. Adorno v. Correctional Services Corp., 312 F. Supp. 2d 505 (S.D.N.Y. 2004 ). [N/R]
     County and sheriff did not act with deliberate indifference in hiring a deputy who subsequently used allegedly excessive force against a pretrial detainee which severed his intestine. Alleged problems in deputy's background did not bear a "strong causal connection" to the specific constitutional violation claimed. Morris v. Crawford County, Arkansas, #01-3621, 299 F.3d 919 (8th Cir. 2002). [2002 JB Dec]
     Female inmate sexually assaulted by prison guard was properly awarded $15,000 in compensatory and $5,000 in punitive damages against prison security director and $25,000 in punitive damages against warden for failure to protect her against the assault, based on guard's prior actions that a jury could have found put them on notice that he posed a substantial risk of serious harm to female prisoners. Riley v. Olk-Long, #00-3411, 282 F.3d 592 (8th Cir. 2002). [2002 JB Jun]
     Department of Corrections was entitled to summary judgment in lawsuit brought by prison employee's estate against department claiming that it negligently hired, supervised and monitored another prison employee who shot and killed the decedent. Washington state statute RCW 4.92.100 unambiguously requires that claims against the state shall be verified, and verification by plaintiff's attorney, rather than plaintiff, was insufficient when the plaintiff claimant was not incapacitated, a minor, or a non-resident of the state. Shannon v. State of Washington, No. 26446-3-II, 40 P.3d 1200 (Wash. App. 2002). [N/R]
     Former jail inmate was foreclosed from arguing that the sexual acts she engaged in with a jailer were not voluntarily consented to when she was criminally convicted of prostitution for them. Sheriff was entitled to summary judgment in plaintiff's lawsuit alleging negligent hiring, supervision and retention, as well as vicarious liability for alleged sexual assault. Pritchett v. Heil, No. 56A03-0103-CV-72, 756 N.E.2d 561 (Ind. App. 2001). [2002 JB Feb]
     US Supreme Court overturns $800,000 award against county based on alleged inadequate screening before hiring deputy with arrest record who caused injuries to arrestee; single hiring decision could not be the basis for municipal liability in absence of evidence that sheriff consciously disregarded high risk that deputy would use excessive force Bd of Co. Com'rs of Bryan Co., Okl v. Brown, 117 S.Ct. 1382 (1997).

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